With all of the different cloud computing platforms on the market, as well as the different methods of deployment that exist, it can be difficult to choose which provider(s) will fit your needs. Below are some questions and considerations I would recommend before going all-in with any provider.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list – there may be many more considerations you’ll have to take into account, particularly if you are using cloud services for a heavily regulated industry, but these are good to at least get started.
Reliability and availability
Is the provider known to have reliable and highly available services? In the course of a year, how much downtime (or time when services will not be available at all) should I expect? In what ways does the provider try to minimize outages or downtime? And when things do go down unexpectedly, how will they compensate you for your lost time and resources?
Does the provider make use of open source technologies? Would you be able to use the platform with any existing applications, infrastructures, or technologies that you currently have, or would you need to perform some type of reconfiguration (or perhaps start over from scratch) to make what you currently have work on their platform? You should also consider whether or not the provider “plays well” or can interact with other platforms, as you may find that there may be a service that you’d like to use on one platform, but not the other.
How is the provider charging you for their services? Does it give you the flexibility to be charged by the hour, or is at least a monthly commitment necessary? Can you monitor your costs in a clear and understandable way? And do they outline for you a process to contest charges should you need to?
Going off from the pricing discussion, does the platform give you resources, tools and recommendations on how to control your cloud costs? Does the provider’s platform support newer execution models that can minimize cloud costs, like serverless computing and functions as a service (FaaS)?
Does the provider allow you to quickly and easily scale up and down resources when you need to? Does the provider provide the mechanisms for you to do this on your own, or would they require you to take additional steps (like speaking to a sales support representative) to add or reduce resources?
What support does the provider offer? Most of the major cloud service providers provide various options, from free to paid – with each comes a different level of support in terms of response time and technical assistance. What level of service will you need, and will it fit in your particular price point?
This cannot be stressed enough – what type of security standards does the provider employ? Have they had any major data breaches in the recent past and if so, how were they addressed? What safeguards does the provider put in place to make sure your data remains safe, and does not get into someone else’s hands? Most reliable cloud service providers heavily document all the protocols, security certifications received and methods they employ to keep your cloud infrastructures, applications and data safe.
Data Ownership and Access
In the earlier days of cloud computing, many people were surprised to learn that some providers, in their fine print, claimed to own any data or intellectual property that they put on their networks, storage, etc. as theirs. Additionally, they also stated that they may access this data at any time, and without needing their express consent. While this is largely not the case with most major cloud service providers, it’s still prudent to double-check the fine print here.